The Florida Project
A delightful film of contrasts, Sean Baker’s vision of what the world looks like through the eyes of an innocent six-year-old girl, is as cruel as it is beautiful.
Moonee (Brooklyn Prince) is shielded from many of the harsh realities of her life by her caring mother Halley (Bria Vinaite). The pair live in a squalid motel in the shadow of Walt Disney World in Florida, eking out an existence with the looming fear of homelessness constantly on Halley’s mind.
Most of Moonee’s time is spent with other youngsters who seemingly have the run of the motel. Bobby (Willem Dafoe) looks after the crumbling complex as best as he can, and also tries to keep the kids out of trouble. It’s safe to say he isn’t very successful as either task.
On the surface of it, not very much actually happens in The Florida Project. The film was released in 2017 and initally feels like a quick response to the Trump presidency which began a year earlier, but the script is really more focused on the impact of the financial crash of 2008. This means the film has a timeless quality, given that it feels depressingly timely even when watching it back today.
Halley’s increasingly desperate attempts to raise funds to feed and house her child add a sense of urgency to proceedings and lead to some panic-inducing moments in the third act. Brooklyn Prince, and all the other young actors, largely improvise their lines. The dialogue feels particularly ‘real’ as a result. Most of the cast were unknowns going into the production, with some of them actually living in and around the motels we see in the film itself. William Dafoe is obviously the biggest star involved in the movie, but even he decided to spend time living on location to fully understand the characters.
The result is a surreal film which is shot in a distinctive style that belies a low budget and guerrilla movie-making techniques. The title ‘The Florida Project‘ refers to the original working title of Walt Disney’s first theme park, but the film is far more relevant than Mickey and co.